The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have drafted seven players with first-round grades, general manager Jason Licht told Pewter Report. Those seven players: Jameis Winston, Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Kwon Alexander, Vernon Hargreaves, Noah Spence and Roberto Aguayo. The first four turned into quality starters as rookies last year, while the latter three should be significant parts of the team this year as well.
The weirdest thing there: having Aguayo, a kicker, as a first-round pick, which Licht justifies by quoting Bill Belichick.
"In New England, Bill Belichick made us scouts list our roster from 1-53 and we had eight practice squad guys and we had some guys on I.R., but he wanted us to rank our guys from first to last," Licht said. "None of us had the kicker, Stephen Gostkowski, in our top 10 - even though he was an excellent kicker. After we were done, Bill said, ‘Nobody wants to put Gostkowski in our top 10? Why, just because he's a kicker?' Bill made us "rethink that" and he got his point across. He said, ‘You tell me 10 other players that are more important than him!'
Well yes, Bill, that is indeed the point most analytics guys would make. Just like they would never put a long-snapper in the top 10.
Of course, we can only assume Jason Licht is speaking the truth about his first-round grades here. It's not like there's any downside to lying for him, but it's also believable for a couple of reasons. For one, different teams have very different grades on players not just because they can see different things, but because they fit differently in every scheme. Lovie Smith didn't have much use for 350 lbs. nose tackles, for instance.
For two, except for Kwon Alexander, all of these picks were first and second-rounders. The Bucs didn't try to sell anyone on some seventh-round pick here, and a few players falling on a specific draft board a couple of years in a row isn't that weird.
Third, we don't actually know what "first-round grade" means for the Bucs. Does it mean a player they would draft in the first round if they held the last pick in that round? Does it mean a player they would draft in the first round in any draft? In an average draft? Does it mean a player they expect will go in the first round? Does it just mean "top 32 player in this draft"? And if it does, is that for the entire NFL, or just their team? How does this work?
Fourth, the Bucs only have a limited number of players on their board every year. That's something Licht learned from Bill Belichick, and it cuts down on a lot of noise: only focus on the players you really want. Scheme fits, off-field issues, or a different eye can take players off the board who are high on the board for other teams. This year, for instance, the Bucs had just 135 players on their draft board, Licht told Pewter Report, with 253 players in the draft.
On the other hand, Yahoo!'s Charles Robinson makes some good points, too.
Ultimately, none of this actually matters. What matters is how these players perform on the field, whether they were rated as first-rounders on the Bucs' board or not.